Modern Classic SLR Series
Canon A-1 - Introduction


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The A-1 Main Features: Five automatic exposure modes with manual override

* Shutter-priority AE
* Aperture priority AE
* Programmed AE
* Stopped - down AE
* Electronic flash AE
* Manual exposire control
* Operation extermel easy by AE Mode Selector and AT Dial
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Unobstructed field-of-view viewfinder * Photographic information in bright, red LED digital displays below the field of view * On/off viewfinder display switch

Canon Ai from the top
More than the average features

* Metering range from EV-2 to EV 18
* Shutter speeds fron 1/1000 sec. to 30 sec.
* Film sensitivity range from ASA 6 to ASA 12800
* ±2 f/stop exposure compensation in 12 steps
* Exposure memory that stores the exposure value
* Simple to operate multiple exposure lever
* Two-speed self-timer
* Handy, detachable Action Grip
* Eyepiece shutter to keep out unwanted light
* High reliability and performance due to incorporation of the most up-to-date developments in electronis
* Compactness, light weight and easy operation made possible by use of totally digital computer
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Canon A-1, this top-of-the-range model in the A-series lineup was introduced back in 1978. This model, together with the rest of the A-series models, were responsible for the sweeping changes in camera designs and flexibility. it was the first 35mm SLR camera to incorporate Programmed AE mode, a feature where the camera set both the aperture and shutter speed to ensure a correct exposure based on the lighting situation and ISO film speed in use. Add to this a host of accessories like a 5 frame-per-second motor drive, dedicated Speedlites and more than 60 FD lenses to choose from, the A-1 was an excellent camera for both advanced amateur and professional photographers alike. First of all, you need to understand what the A-1 can or cannot do, including when to apply exposure compensations for situations where it can't be counted on to give a well-exposed picture, the camera is a fine instrument that is able to undertake just about any photo assignments you have in mind. The camera was also a showcase of Canon's technological prowess in electronics and mechanical designs. The manual focus FD lenses, for example, were introduced with the older Canon F-1 pro model in 1972, offering automatic diaphram for use in full aperture metering. The F-1 has no AE shooting modes, other than its CATS autoflash system when used with some dedicated Canon Speedlites. Canon has never publicized much about the capabilities of its FD mount system before the introduction of the A-series 35mm SLR cameras, other than optical quality and the elements used. No one knew much about what the other pins and mechanical link-ups found on every FD lens until the arrival of the Canon AE-1 (1976) and subsequently, the A-1 two years later.

Prior to the A-1's debut, there were rumours going around that the reason why Canon does not have an Aperture-priority AE capable SLR model was because it had designed its FD lens system to enable shutter-priority AE only. The A-1 proved the critics wrong by showing that both its Programmed and Aperture-priority AE modes can be utilised with any FD lenses ever made. For the record, the Canon A-1 was the first and only manual focus 35mm SLR camera to utilize the Aperture-priority AE mode without using the aperture ring of any FD-type of lenses (this feature was also adopted in the EOS System). The camera select the shooting aperture by virtue of turning a unique AT dial located at the top panel, just next to the film advance lever and with the lens' aperture ring set to the "A" mark. To use Aperture-priority AE, just select Av mode on the AT dial. The AT dial has numerals for both Shutter (Tv) and Aperture-priority AE modes. It has aperture numerals in 1/2-steps increments from f/22 till f/1.4. Half-stop numerals (like f/3.5, f/1.8 and f/1.2) were designated as dots between the 1-step numbers.

Selecting an f-stop manually from the aperture ring after removing it from the "A" mark is not recommended. However, the exposure will still be correct if the aperture which has been manually selected on the ring corresponded with the one set on the AT dial. Alternatively, you can compensate for any exposure by setting an aperture that is different from what you have set on the AT dial. The camera recommended exposure during Aperture-priority AE mode is determined by the f-number set on the AT dial, and not the manually selected f-stop from the aperture ring. To use Av mode by manually selecting the f-stop is only possible with FD-type lenses and the AT dial must be set to its AV mark. In reality, this is more of a hassle than simply using the AT dial alone and leave the aperture to the "A" mark. Even though the A-1 was introduced in 1978, some of its features were more "advanced" than those found on the New F-1 pro camera of 1981, like multiple exposure. On the New F-1, the multiple exposure is activated by pressing the film rewind button (located near the shutter button) whereas the A-1 has a separate lever (located behind the film advance lever) especially designed for this feature. In the New F-1, the frame counter moves during multiple exposure while the A-1's stay -- this could be important for certain cases where you may want to keep track of how many times or which frame was used for this effect.

Canon A- base view
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The multiple exposure feature on both models is cancelled each time the cameras' shutter button is pressed halfway -- which mean you have to reactivate the feature before advancing the film if you want to have more than two exposures on the same frame. However, when the Motor Drive MA or AE Motor Drive FN (for New F-1) are used, continuous multiple exposure capability is possible without reactivating the feature if you are firing either camera using the respective motor drives' shutter buttons. For Self-timer operation, the A-1 has a choice of a 2 or 10-second delay while the New F-1 only has a 10-second option. The 2-second delay can be used for shooting close-up or recopying work whenever a cable-release is not available. There was also one interesting feature, which I believed, cannot be found on any 35mm SLR camera available, past or present, manual or autofocus models -- the LEDs used in the A-1's viewfinder can be switched off, to prevent distraction for the user, especially when the display started blinking to warn of exposure error. Of course, this feature may not matter much to most but the option was readily available for those who do.

It also has, the highest ever ISO film speed setting of any 35mm SLR camera -- a whopping 12800 - a feature that can be used only if and when the major film manufacturers like Agfa, Fuji, Kodak, Konica and Mitsubishi have finally decided to introduce an emulsion of this speed. For the time being, it can be used to read exposure values needed if you are rating an ISO 3200-speed film by two stops and have it push-processed later. And, finally, the AT dial, which was unique and can be found only on the A-1 in all of Canon's camera line-up, whether it is the F-series, A-series, T-series or the EOS System. The AT dial was also the predecessor to the Electronic Input Dial that made its debut on the Canon T90 and inherited by all the EOS models.

There are three aspects of the A-1 which made it lose out to the New F-1:

1) The X-sync of 1/60 sec. vs 1/90 sec for the latter,
2) It won't operate without a battery
3) The use of a silk-type material for its horizontally-travel focal plane shutter as compared to the titanium version used by the pro model.

| Back | Index Page of Canon A-1
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History & Background | Basic Camera Operation (14 Parts)

Main Reference Map - HTML | PDF (270k)
Specification - HTML | PDF (96k)

Shared Resources: Winder A, Winder A2, Focusing Screens, Motor Drive MA, Databack A, Speedlites & Macro photography.

Canon FD Resources
A Series: AE-1 | AT-1 | A-1 | AV-1 | AE-1 Program | AL-1
T- Series:
T50 | T60 | T70 | T80 | T90
F-1 | New F-1
Canon FL Resources Pellix | FTQL

FL | Canon FDn lenses. | Early versions of FD lenses

Canon EOS SLRs | Canon EF lens Resources

Highly suggestive useful external links/resources created by Mr.Christian Rollinger:

Essentials: - Canon A1 Repair/Service Guide | Determine Years of Made of your Canon
Canon Flash models:- Canon 300TL flash(1.5MB); Macrolite ML-1(HTML); Macrolite ML-2; Macrolite ML-3; Speedlite 133a; Speedlite 155a(HTML); Speedlite 177a; Speedlite 188a(HTML); Speedlite 199a; Speedlite 244t; Speedlite 277t (HTML); Speedlite 533; Speedlite 577

Others:- Canon Auto Bellow Unit Manual; Canon Macro Photography Guide, Canon Slide Duplicator Manual, Canon Angle Finder User's Manual

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